Tribe improves to 69-64
The Indians have struggled mightily against southpaws this season, but tonight against Kansas City's Jason Vargas, they jumped all over a lefty early. Zach Walters doubled in a run in the 2nd inning; then in the 3rd Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana, and Jason Kipnis each knocked in a run, giving the Tribe a 4-0 lead.
That gave Danny Salazar a nice cushion to work with, and he worked with it well, getting through the first five innings without allowing any runs, despite striking out only two batters. Rain arrived in the middle of the 6th inning though, and after a 44-minute delay Francona decided Salazar had been sitting too long. Thus began the parade of relievers, a march we've seen so, so many times this season.
Seven different pitchers appeared for the Indians on the night (Kyle Crockett hit a batter with the only pitch he threw, which is fun), a total they have now reached 15 times this season, the most by any team in American League history. The relievers did well though, including Bryan Shaw in his league-leading 67th appearance of the year, which puts him on pace for what would be a franchise-record 82 appearances come the end of the season.
With a 4-run lead, the Indians had the game pretty well in hand heading into the 9th. Most of whatever tension remained was removed by Santana blasting his team-leading 22nd home run of the season. It was also Santana's 6th home run of the season at Kauffman Stadium, tying the record for most homers hit there by a visitor, a mark he shares with Jacque Jones and Jose Valentin.
Josh Tomlin gave up one run in the 9th, so the Indians didn't get the shutout, but I've got no beef with a 6-1 victory.
Kansas City's MVP candidate Alex Gordon was held to an 0 for 5 night, which the Tribe's top offensive performer of the season, Michael Brantley picked up 3 more hits, lifting his batting average to .310.
Tonight's win is the 9,000th victory in franchise history. The Indians are only the third American League team to reach that mark, getting there after only the Yankees and Red Sox. Because so much of their success was so long ago, it's often overlooked that Cleveland has been one of the better teams in baseball over the course of the team's 114-year history. The win also pushes the Tribe a season-high 5 games above .500, and moves them to 4.5 games back of Kansas City for the division lead, and 4 games back of Detroit, who currently holds the second Wild Card spot.
This is the baseball, and it still matters.
Win Expectancy Chart:
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